Ocha asked in Politics & GovernmentPolitics · 1 decade ago

How might you refurbish our congressional system to bring it into the 21st Century?

For the time at which it was conceived of and set up, the U.S. Congress was a very advanced and (dare we say it?) liberal legislative body. It was, in many ways, far in advance of its time, and served as something of an experiment in indirect democracy. However, that was then, and this is now. The U.S. has since grown enormously in several areas, such as population, diversity, education, and technology. At long last, in comparison with some legislatures in foreign countries (we are referring here to democratic countries…), our legislature is starting to look rather shopworn.

Each of our direct representatives in the House of Representatives represents roughly 700,000 of us. It is said that we have only 435 of them because that was the number of seats available in the largest assembly room in the Capitol. They are disproportionately wealthy, white, Anglo, male, Protestant, and old (with an incumbency rate of roughly 95%) How well can such an elite understand what most of their ±700,000 constituents, think about, aspire to, or simply need?

We have, as some have put it, the best congress that money can buy, and lets face it, our congress is bought to the extent that 75-80% of the cost of their campaigns are financed by corporate donations. Corporations do not donate money to be “good citizens,” but rather to do what they do: make a profit. They expect a return on their investment, and they get it. Our congressional system is based on bribery, which in most normal democratic countries except this one, would land our representatives in jail.

Now, lets assume that you have a magic wand (your vote) in your hands, and some ideals and ideas in your high-powered minds. How might you refurbish our congressional system to bring it into the 21st Century? This is an open-ended question, which can lead to many different approaches or strategies from more concrete to more abstract, and everything in between. Do try, however, to keep this somewhat within the realm of the possible and preferable.

(Furthermore, please keep in mind that our system is supposed to be based upon the ideal of democracy, not quotas, appointed representatives or other anti-democratic devices. We also are not in favor of reverse gerrymandering, revolution [very messy and deadly], or complete anarchy [which we are not evolved enough to deal with constructively, anyway.])

17 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Well presented issue - unfortunately, that magic wand might represent a few decades work, perhaps closer to a century, yet it may be possible.

    The answer to this is a subject of a doctorate thesis, and difficult to sketch. So many variables need to be addressed, it will be difficult to describe the execution of suggestions, the order to proceed, and how they work together.

    I'll start writing - you can fill in the obvious and put it in order, however it works:

    1.) Allow the voters to vote more, and vote on bills instead of our "representatives" doing so for us. Allow the voters to decide even separate sections of the bill, so we have say of what's in it. Instead of lobbyists & corporations pleasing politicians to get what they want, cut out the middle-man, they'll need to satisfy us - the consumers and voters. No one wants to go to the polls this frequently, and it will be a cost, yet save money for all of us in the end.

    2.) Stop melting us into a pot. It's okay that we wish to retain our own opinions & beliefs - stop shoving them down everyone's throat. One government can not give all of these factions their definition of "the pursuit of happiness". Return the Federal Gov't to a safety net program for vulnerable, disabled & elderly, hire an outside agency to oversee the damned stock market, take care of the big picture infrastructure, and return the money back to the local pockets. Complicated, I know.

    2.) Build a border, with non-union legal citizens & workers who live in this country. Protect our own, so we can be strong enough to reach out to others.

    3.) Use the term "everyone" in the constitution and stop legislating prejudice & behavior through hate law crimes. Stop giving special treatment to groups, it actually perpetuates prejudice.

    4.) Stop the government from making us all conform to every belief out there, or from watering us down to none at all.

    a.) Allow far more self-governing on local cultural and subjective issues. Keep some common standards, as in protecting children & basic criminal elements, and allow people to have their views in common with their neighbors. i.e., If one group doesn't believe in abortion, they can live in a political "zone" that agrees, and not allow tax dollars to cover these. If someone wants to live in a state or county that allows it, that's where they go. Live & let live. That's a melting pot, neighborhoods side by side, doing their own thing. Let the Feds monitor disputes between states or districts.

    b.) revamp and unfederalize the educational system -

    Conform, conform, conform - Same thing in our classrooms, stop putting special ed kids in where they can't keep up and don't get the proper attention they need. It's not fair to them, nor anyone and it's costing us billions and the educations of kids who learn in a more conformed way.

    Everyone doesn't need to quote Shakespeare when they are done with high school. Get rid of the union and return to vocational tech schools & apprentice work. We shouldn't have to pay for a college diploma for every skill out there - it's a rip off, for-profit system that sucks off of federal student aid where it's not needed. Stop trying to turn us all into the same thing - there's nothing wrong with not going to "college", lot's of other ways to learn for less money & time. Use the money to create more doctors & medical staff to address the shortages.

    5.) Retract the original bill that allowed politicians to vote for their own raises, decide who is allowed to be on an election ballot, and keep left over campaign funds in their own coffers. Extra campaign funds get donated or returned to the gov't.

    Only allow individual tax payers to make campaign contributions. Corporations get their personal votes, and then lobbyists on top of it.

    Let each district of the country have a representative in D.C., then the majority of the politicians back home keeping more taxes there. If a district allows the federal gov't to put a military base in their zone, maybe those folks get a break on their federal taxes since their district is giving something to the Feds, or they can outright sell the land to the Federal gov't.

    6.) Get rid of national unions - if a group wants to go local, then fine. But national unions choke us all - and take away free enterprise & capitalism. Use an ombudsman program through local & fed gov'ts. If your politicians are local, and not in DC, they can oversee disputes. If you are a teacher, who doesn't like the pay scale in your state, then go to another that puts more resources into your type of education.

    7.) Self-responsibility. You build a house on a river, & it floods, as the Nile has been doing forever, then you pay for it. You build a house up in known wildfire areas, you pay for it. You see a wet floor sign in Wal-mart, or wearing shoes with no tread or high heals and you fall - you pay for it. You put a cup of hot coffee in your lap, you get burned, perhaps a clue, but not a pay-day.

    No way does it make sense for a Federal govt to try to govern "melting pot". The more we try to conform, the worse it gets and so much is wasted over bickering.

    There's so much more that can be said. Whatever the precise plan for your "magic wand", I think we Americans need to follow the K.I.S.S.motto - "Keep it simple stupid!"

    Good question.

    Source(s): ???
  • 1 decade ago

    The best thing to bring the congressional system into the 21st century is to take away the incumbent paperwork advantage. The system is stacked against the lower classes.

    The problem with the Congress elections is the giant road blocks they put to keep out the lower classes. The McCain-Feingold did more to stop the election of new comers under guise of electoral reform. They made it so hard to fill out the paperwork and made the individuals financially responsible for any errors.

    This means a middle class or lower can't run because the risk of making an error on paperwork because they can't afford the fines and penalties. Only the rich or incumbents with cash in campaign funds.

    Have a Simple 1 or 2 page form and any further paperwork should have a Federal employee who comes out and helps fill in the forms to make sure it is done correctly and errors fall on the government.

    Campaign funds I have a few options:

    If elected remaining funds go into re-election fund with oversight.

    If you lose you turn over the campaign fund to a State run Election Fund you get a receipt for the amount you put in.

    IF you run again you get your money back when you file.

    The Fund is used to give seed money to the elections of non incumbents.

    The Fund is for use only by those NEVER elected to Congress.

    A receipt system is used, and the Fund provides an employee to drop in and helps educate them on filling in the paperwork and how to keep records.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think for me the most sincere idea would be for Congress and even the senate to devise a means where that left over from the Monarchy, the Supreme Court could not triumph the Congress,Senate and the Executive branch of our government, that they would repeal the lifetime service to ten years only, that the Court could handle Judicial as in a branch of the Justice dept and not social issues of any kind ! This then would be a more representative government of the people by the people and for the people.

  • 1 decade ago

    Term limits: 4 terms (8 years) in the House, 2 terms (12 years) in the Senate.

    Campaign limits: 3 months for Congressional districts, 6 months for Senate

    No mailings or taxpayer funded contact with constituents during the campaign period.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Our system has never been a democracy. The US was designed to be a Constitutional republic. The answer to the problems in our Congress is term limits. Just like no one gets to be President for longer than 10 years, our Senators and Congressmen should also have term limits. What we have now are people whose entire lives are spent in public office. That's how they gain power.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Revert back to the original way they were elected. Thus returning power to the states. Also, set term limits of Congress. Also, tax all political contributions at a 98% rate, that will weed out the lobbyists and special interests. Then? Set spending caps on election campaigns, and limit what the candidate can claim, to include ONLY what HE/SHE has done. Ban mudslinging and dirt.

  • 1 decade ago

    Make it more virtual and require less presence in Washington. Move all the Congress people back to their districts and use secure video links to keep them tied to Washington. Votes can be done remotely, and people can watch public sessions over the Internet.

    Getting Congress people away from the lobbyists and special interests in Washington DC would be a big step forward in addressing corruption. It would also keep them more in touch with the people they are supposed to represent.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Clean house on election day it works we just need to get the old war horses out and get some new blood. The way it is the old boys spoil the new blood as it slowly comes in so a mass change over is needed.

  • 1 decade ago

    I would say the use of term limits and constitutional amendments setting up guidelines for limited spending.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Term limits, and more simple rules for a recall. No more Camelots. None of us are royalty, not even the congress!

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